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Horse racing: Horsemen's Park pleased with attendance for live races

Horse racing: Horsemen's Park pleased with attendance for live races

Developers behind a plan to transform Omaha's Horsemen's Park into one of Nebraska's first casinos are counting on the city to pony up $17.5 million in tax incentives to bring the project over the finish line.

Though free admission made it difficult to estimate exact crowd numbers, Horsemen’s Park officials were pleased with the turnout for this year’s live meet.

“We had 10 days of very successful racing,” said Bob Moser, president of the Omaha Exposition and Racing (OER) board. “We had competitive fields and the fans had a good time.”

After charging a $5 admission fee since 2016 — there was no live racing last year because of the pandemic — Horsemen’s Park did not charge fans this year. Moser estimated the crowds to be near 10,000 on two of the 10 days of the meet, which ended Saturday.

“The weather cooperated, and that’s a big factor for us,” he said. “We also had some popular promotions that helped boost our numbers.”

The Budweiser Clydesdales paraded at the track on one Saturday, and Corgi dog races were held on the final race day.

“We’re always trying to attract new fans,” he said. “Those promotions helped us do that.”

Moser said he also was happy with the response from horsemen concerning the racing surface, which got a major overhaul before the meet.

“We brought in 220 tons of cushion,” he said. “The riders and trainers liked it and the horses all returned safely.”

Healthy horses will help make for a smooth transition to Agricultural Park in Columbus, the next stop on the Nebraska racing circuit. That track begins its live meet Friday night.

Moser said a similar race surface will be installed at Lincoln Race Course, which also is operated by OER.

Jake Olesiak, the leading rider at Grand Island’s Fonner Park in the spring, made it two jockey titles in a row. He finished with 11 wins, one more than Chris Fackler.

Adrian Ramos and Nathan Haar tied for third with seven victories.

Five trainers — Jason Wise, Stetson Mitchell, Robert Haar, Mark Hibdon and Steve Hall — tied for the conditioning title with four wins each.

Marissa Black had two wins but was the top money-winning trainer at $38,360.

PR Odds Setter, a 3-year-old filly who won two stakes races, was the top money-winning horse at $24,660.

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Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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